As teachers, we are constantly looking for new ways to engage and inspire our students, to broaden learning opportunities, not only within school, but beyond the classroom and into the open world around us. It is said that success is born out of circumstance and opportunity. Developing personally therefore, becomes just as important as developing academically. We believe that by providing new opportunities and experiences for our students that we stand the best chance of developing the young the people we teach into more inquisitive, explorative learners. It is therefore our intention to encourage and provoke thought among our pupils, giving young minds the opportunity to be imaginative and creative and provide the safety and reassurance to enable them to question their surroundings.
As practitioners we aim to deliver evidence based practice, providing a clear rationale for making the decisions and taking the approaches that we do. Cognitive science and ‘how we learn’ forms the basis for this aspect. It recognises an inevitable truth:
“And here’s how you should think about memory: it’s the residue of thought, meaning that the more you think about something, the more likely it is that you’ll remember it later.” Willingham
It is for this reason that we chose to support our curriculum coverage of power and conflict poetry with a trip to the Royal Armouries museum in Leeds. Of all the aspirational targets we have set this year, rounding up 23 excited year 10 pupils, placing them in the confines of a school mini bus for an hour and twenty minutes, before dropping them into an unfamiliar city and taking them into an extremely impressive, modern, vast, open building filled (literally) from top to bottom with ancient artefacts and weapons, has for me been one of our most ambitious yet. However, I needn’t have worried. Surrounded by wide eyes and open mouths it was clear to see the appreciation our pupils had for the environment they found themselves in. If inspiring thought and imagination was our goal, it was evident that this had been achieved within minutes of walking into the foyer.
Our cohort of pupils for the trip was wide ranging, some of our pupils had previously become disengaged with learning, others poor attending, some with really low levels of self-confidence or independence, some of our pupils had never even been to a museum before. It was therefore incredibly humbling to see how engaged and interested each of them were as we walked around the building. Each of them full of questions and occupied by thought – a real example of cognitive thought in practice.
While I was incredibly proud of all of our pupils and the contributions they each made to the day I was particularly taken back and impressed by a group of our usually more challenging boys. Often their choice of attire and presentation will lead to society viewing them in a particular way and through predetermined judgement not giving them the chances they would usually afford others. However, when listening to a live monologue of a world war two soldier, they could not have been more engaged and afterwards were eager to ask questions, look at and touch the uniform and weapons and really immersed themselves in the experience in a considerate and respectful way. It was this image and experience for me personally that showed the value in experience based learning and reinforced my impression that not all quality education takes place behind a desk and that all pupils, regardless of prior experience or background, when given the right opportunities can thrive.